Secrets, Sins and Silence
Dad Is Haunted by Family Friend's Abuse of Son
By Phillip O'Connor
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
November 15, 2004
Secrets, Sins and Silence
• Part 1: The Untold Story of Sexual Abuse at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary, by Phillip O'Connor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 13, 2004
• Part 2: Coming to Terms, Confronting the Church, by Phillip O'Connor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 15, 2004
• Dad Is Haunted by Family Friend's Abuse of Son, by Phillip O'Connor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 15, 2004
• Part 3: As Scandal Breaks, Search for Truth Begins, by Phillip O'Connor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 16, 2004
• Five Dioceses Agreed to Help One Sexual Abuse Victim, by Tim Townshend, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 16, 2004
• Timeline, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 16, 2004
• Sins and Silence: Problem Priests, Editorial, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 17, 2004
[See also Will public debriding bring private healing of the wounds at St. Thomas Aquinas? by Bishop John R. Gaydos, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 22, 2004.]
Pike County, Mo. – Inside a tidy green-gray farm home near Corso, beneath a
picture of the Crucifixion that hangs on a nearby wall, Paul Bange sits at his
dining room table, letters, notes and newspapers stacked before him like
evidence for a trial that will never take place.
He wears a ball cap, dark-lensed glasses and the straightforward, earnest look
that seems a birthright for many of the stout, thick-shouldered men who eke a
living from the soil. He begins to tell a visitor about what the priests at St.
Thomas had done to his son, the pain it caused his family and the anger he felt
toward the diocese leaders about how they handled the situation.
Every now and then he searches the pile for the piece of paper that backs an
assertion. A few feet away, his wife, Linda, busies herself in the kitchen, and
offers an occasional clarification or "that's right, honey."
Anger has consumed Bange, 59, since David, his oldest boy, approached him
around the New Year's holiday of 1997 and told him that he had been abused for
years by Father James P. McNally, a St. Thomas faculty member and close family
McNally and his lawyer declined to comment for these stories.
In the months and years that followed, Paul Bange launched a one-man battle for
answers, explanations and apologies from church leaders that he says have never
come. When he visited the office of Jefferson City Bishop Michael F. McAuliffe
to ask for counseling for his family, the bishop agreed, but asked that the
father keep the incident quiet to avoid a scandal, Bange said.
"At that point in time, I didn't question that too much," Bange said. "My first
concern was David and my family. My second thought was I wasn't going to go
around and blab it anyway. That's not what you do."
McAuliffe, now in a nursing home, could not be reached for comment.
In letters to Bange and his wife in 1998, Bishop John R. Gaydos, who had
replaced McAuliffe, told them that McNally had been sent for therapy and was in
a treatment program for sexual compulsives. He also told them that he had met
with seminary administrators to ensure the protection of students and would
have his staff follow up on information about other potential victims.
Gaydos and other diocesan leaders never told St. Thomas parents about McNally
and have continued to keep what happened a secret.
In the past year, Paul Bange has backed off his crusade, tired of the fight.
"This is the first year I've kind of got back on track," said Bange, who spent
years in therapy, received a diagnosis of depression and neglected his farming
to pursue answers.
Linda Bange, 57, a devout convert who raised her six children in the church, no
longer is as involved in church social activities and has little faith in
Through it all, Paul Bange retained his bedrock faith in the Catholic religion
as an institution. But he, too, lost his respect for the men who run it.
"They handle it like a corporation instead of as a religious institution, which
I believe the Catholic church is," he said. "They listen to their lawyers. They
figure out the best way to cover up and angle out.
". . . The only people who can fix it are the bishops themselves, and they've
got to truly repent, go to the victims, go to the people in the church pews and
open themselves up and bleed for the people like Christ bled on the cross for
us. This is a faith-belief thing and until they do that, until they're actually
able to be martyrs for the church, basically, it's not going to work."